Saturday, July 16, 2011

Corruption in Cuba--The Cuban Communist Party Signals Public Recognition and Party Obligation

 Cultures and mechanics of corruption in Marxist Leninist states are both important and distinctly constituted from corruption in its manifestations in market economies--including the United States and the European Union.   
En Cuba, por ejemplo, no puede hablarse en los mismos términos sobre la corrupción en los procesos de contratación entre el Estado y el sector privado, porque la mayor parte del sector productivo y comercial está bajo el control o es propiedad del mismo Estado. Tampoco son aplicables las teorías o enfoques que se utilizan para analizar la corrupción política en América Latina, porque estas en su mayoría parten del supuesto de que existen varios partidos políticos que se enfrentan periódicamente en procesos electorales y requieren fuentes de financiamiento privado para sostenerse y cubrir los costos de sus campañas. Ricardo A. Puerta, Corrupción en Cuba y como combatirla: Una propusta de auditoría social, Buenoa Aire: Fundación CADAL, 2004, at 8)  [In Cuba, for example, one cannot use the same terms in speaking of corruption in ther processes of contracting between the state and the private sector, because the greater part of the productive and commercial sector is under the control of or is the property of the state.  Also inapplicable are theories or approaches that are used to analyze political corruption in Latin America, because these, in large part are grounded in the assumptions of the existence of multiple political parties that periodically compete in elections and which require private financing sources to sustain their efforts and cover the costs of their campaigns.]

Corruption can be understood as evidence of two distinct but important social conditions.  First, corruption is evidence that a system, as formally constituted and as functionally implemented, is not working.  It provides a concrete manifestation of "workarounds" in the face of ideologies or mechanics that have been effectively rejected by the people and those who serve them.  In effect, corruption can suggest the extent to which the governing structures of operation do not reflect the realities of life lived or the contradictions between the ideological foundations of the state and the realities of its manifestations among the people.  In its extreme form under these conditions, corruption can have revolutionary consequences and effectively dissipates the power of the state. Secondly, and more commonly, corruption is understood divergence of resources form productive uses
Corruption flourishes in many states, but in failed states it often does so on an unusually destructive scale. There is widespread petty or lubricating corruption as a matter of course, but escalating levels of venal corruption mark failed states: kickbacks on anything that can be put out to fake tender (medical supplies, textbooks, bridges, roads, and tourism concessions); unnecessarily wasteful construction projects arranged so as to maximize the rents that they generate; licenses for existing and nonexistent activities; and persistent and generalized extortion. In such situations, corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their gains overseas, not at home, making the economic failure of their states that much more acute. Or they dip directly into the coffers of the shrinking state to pay for external aggressions, lavish residences and palaces, extensive overseas travel, and privileges and perquisites that feed their greed. Military officers always benefit from these excessively corrupt regimes and imbibe ravenously from the same illicit troughs as civilian officials. (Robert I. Rotberg, "Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States:  Causes and Indicators," in State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, 1-25.  Washington. D.C.: The Brookings Institute, at 8).

In may cases, of course, corruption evidences both the failures of governance to adequately serve the population and also as a mechanics of looting and divergence of resources as a consequence of the abuse of state power by officials and others. 

For a state faced with corruption, it is important to identify the extent of both conditions of corruption and to target each with distinct and well targeted programs. The unwillingness to recognize these double sources of corruption will likely lead to the failure of anti corrption efforts. Thus, for example, targeting only venal corruption--that is the episodic and periodic acts of corruption by officials--in a system where corruption itself is the only means for effecting transactions does little to overcome the problem.  Likewise, targeting the systemic failures that support corruption as a governance alternative while protecting officials who engage in venal corruption will also doom anti-corruption efforts. 

Corruption is a sensitive issue in Cuba precisely because of its power to suggest a failure of the state apparatus to achieve its objectives as a well run socialist state.  The Cuban State and the Cuban Communist Party has both denounced corruption as an evil to be eradicated and sought to control the discussion about corruption as a systemic failure by people both within and outside the Party.  But the recent moves to fundamentally alter at least some portion of Party ideology and State practice with respect to economic and related matters as a consequences of the effective collapse of the Cuban economy has brought some changes in the approach of both State and Party to the issue of corruption. 

The expulsion and rehabilitation of Cuban Communist Party Member Esteban Morales suggests the extent of the changes in approach that are now becoming more paparent within the Cuban Communist Party itself.  


Esteban Morales. photo: Patricia Grogg, IPS
Esteban Morales, PhD., has been “separated from the ranks” of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) for his publication of an article denouncing what he considers the counter-revolutionary corruption and bureaucracy that exists in the country. The Playa Municipal Committee of the PCC communicated its decision to the grassroots level of the Party.

The phenomenon of corruption within the State (almost everything belongs to the State here) has been recognized by the highest leadership of the Party, everyone in Cuba knows about it, and articles have even been published on it in the official government-party media.

At this moment Morales is preparing his appeal.

His Party membership card was stripped from him by his punishers, though communist commitment remains in Morales. (From Pedro Campos, Esteban Morales Booted from Cuba’s Communist Party, Havana Times, June 298, 2010).

The article, Corruption: The true counter-revolution?,  published by Morales in April, 2010, and appearing on the website of the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba focused on the systemic aspects of corruption in Cuba and suggested that structural changes were required to meet the causes of the corruption that posed a threat to the state itself.  


This threat, combined with venal elements of corruption, required action.  The framework for corruption was the current state of the operation of the state economy.  Popular needs, satisfied by elements of people in power, produced a shadow economy at once as powerful as the official one.

When we closely observe Cuba's internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counter-revolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the State and Government.

Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the Revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR.

Fidel said that we ourselves could put an end to the Revolution and I tend to think that, among other concerns, the Commander in Chief was referring to the questions relative to corruption. Because this phenomenon, already present, has continued to appear in force. If not, see what has happened with the distribution of lands in usufruct in some municipalities around the country: fraud, illegalities, favoritism, bureaucratic slowness, etc.

In reality, corruption is a lot more dangerous than the so-called domestic dissidence. The latter is still isolated; it lacks an alternative program, has no real leaders, no masses. But corruption turns out to be the true counter-revolution, which can do the most damage because it is within the government and the state apparatus, which really manage the country's resources. 

. . . . .

An entire underground economy that the State is unable to control and will be impossible to set aright as long as the big imbalances between supply and demand that today characterizes our economy exists.

This economy is, then, a form of counter-revolution that does have concealed leaders, offers alternatives to the State's offerings, and has masses that practice it. (From Esteban Morales,  Corruption: The true counter-revolution?, Progreso Weekly, April 21, 2010).)
(Esteban Morales, right, on the Roundtable TV program. Photo:

But venal corruption plays a large part.

What was recently learned regarding the weaknesses of a group of functionaries at a very high level – having to do with favoritism, the buddy system, certain acts of corruption and carelessness in the handling of sensitive information, as well as some evidence of a struggle for power waged by those functionaries – was information that, lamentably, was passing into the hands of the Spanish intelligence services, even though those services were very careful not to enlist the officials' participation. Those are extremely serious matters.

In other words, matters as sensitive as the hunger and hope for power, favoritism, corruption and unseemly statements about the country's top leadership, which were already known by the foreign special services. A real “political merchandise” with extremely high added value in the hands of the enemies of the Revolution.

. . . .

Very recently, General Acevedo, director of the IACC (Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba) was removed, and what is making the rounds in unofficial circles about the reasons for his ouster is enough to keep people awake at nights.

There must be some truth in what they say, because this is a very small and familial country. The affair still has not had an exhaustive public explanation, as the people expect, because – if it's like the rumors say – the people's money and resources were squandered amid an economic situation that's quite critical to the country. So, either to vindicate Acevedo or to condemn him, you have to explain it to the people, the people the Revolution has created and formed, technically and scientifically, and who are prepared and with sufficient ability. In reality, I must say, as a hypothesis, that what happened in the IACC is not unique. It has been discovered in other places and there may still be companies where the same is happening, i.e., where the chiefs are receiving commissions and opening bank accounts in other countries. Which is a working theory valid enough to open other investigations so that such affairs will not catch us by surprise. (id.).

For Morales, the problems caused by this sort of corruption was heightened by the state of relations between the United States and Cuba, as well as the relations between Cuba and the European Union (especially Spain).  Corruption, Morales noted, had become a commodity of great use to the secret services of the Americans and the Spanish.  To that extent, at least, corruption becomes not merely internally destructive but also adds to the potential external threat posed by the enemies of the Cuban regime.  "Any Cuban functionary who, in his relations with any foreign enterprise, becomes corrupt, should know that that information could fall into the hands of the special services of any country, and from there to the hands of the American services it's but an instant. A dossier is immediately opened, and it is filled with information until it is considered necessary or pertinent to subject that functionary to bribery, blackmail or recruitment." (Id.).  He urged audits and other corrective measures.  (Id.). Ironically, Wikileaked documents suggested that Morales was not inventing fables.  "La corrupción en Cuba se ha convertido en un fenómeno generalizado que alcanza tanto a la cúpula del Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC) como a profesionales sin adscripción política, según revelan diversos informes de la sección de intereses de los Estados Unidos en La Habana filtrados por el portal web WikiLeaks." "Carencias incentivan la corrupción en Cuba", Hoy, International, Jan. 24, 2011 [Corruption in Cuba has become a widespread phenomenon that reaches both the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and professionals with no political affiliation, as revealed by various reports of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana disclosed by the WikiLeaks web portal].

(From "Carencias incentivan la corrupción en Cuba", Hoy, International, Jan. 24, 201 "Las revelaciones de WikiLeaks explican que pese a las campañas y sanciones oficiales contra las prácticas corruptas, que incluyeron el despliegue de 30 mil jóvenes del PCC para inspeccionar gasolineras y libros de contabilidad del sector hotelero, esas prácticas reinan en Cuba." [WikiLeaks's revelations explain that despite the campaigns and official sanctions against corrupt practices, which included the deployment of 30 000 young people from PCC to inspect gas stations and ledgers of the hotel sector, such practices still reign in Cuba.])

Morales, of course, was not wrong; but the State apparatus, and particularly the Party, was not pleased with the publication of these views (Morales did not chose to keep this an internal criticism within the Party).  "His essay broke a taboo by openly discussing corruption rumors surrounding the dismissal of a top government aviation official who had fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the 1950s.  President Raul Castro has stated that fighting corruption is one of Cuba's prime priorities but members of the party should not tolerate rumors." Communist Party reinstates Cuban writer, Press TV, July 9, 2011.  For that, he was stripped of membership. Morales appealed.  (Pedro Campos, Esteban Morales Booted from Cuba’s Communist Party, Havana Times, June 298, 2010).

But times change, as do the needs of both State and Party.  What had started quietly and as a purely internal matter when Raúl Castro assumed power in 2008, accelerated and has become more public with the economic crisis that became acute in 2010.  And so it was that, faced with an economy in disarray, the Cuban State and Party apparatus embarked on a half year long public effort to reform its strictures and economic practices (in line with its fundamental ideological base, of course).  In the form of the Lineamientos approved by the VIth Party Congress, the effort to recast Cuban economic organization, and to confront the issues and causes of the prior failure became more prominent.  

And so, what was once an internal Party matter, has now become a matter for State enforcement (under Party leadership) and public. "President Raul Castro himself has said fighting corruption is a major challenge for Cuba, and this April he urged Communist Party members not to keep quiet with their criticisms." Cuba academic: Party expulsion order overturned, Associated Press,  In effect, Raúl Castro and the VIth Party Congress's adoption of the Lineamientos represented an effort by the State and Party to attack both conditions of corruption--the systemic and the venal.  Whether this approach will succeed or not remains to be seen.  But the effects on the way in which corruption is treated  may be changing profoundly.   
La temida “Dama Anticorrupción” del régimen cubano, Gladys Bejerano, reportó un retroceso en la lucha contra la malversación en La Habana, una de las principales prioridades del gobierno de Raúl Castro, que trata de reformar la tambaleante economía de la isla.
“Se incrementaron los hechos delictivos y de corrupción” en La Habana, informó la contralora general Bejerano, quien funge además como vicepresidenta del Consejo de Estado, según una información publicada el martes en el oficialista periódico Granma.
Bejerano comentó sobre las recientes auditorías hechas por su agencia a 132 entidades públicas en la capital. Solamente 73 recibieron una calificación de “aceptable”, lo que representa “un retroceso… cuando se compara con el anterior proceso”, de acuerdo con el Granma. Juan O. Tamayo, Régimen cubano reconoce aumento de corrupción
El Nuevo Herald (Miami, FL), June 22, 2011.
[The dreaded "Lady Corruption" Cuban regime, Gladys Bejerano, reported a setback in the fight against malfeasance in Havana, one of the main priorities of the government of Raul Castro, which seeks to reform the faltering economy of the island.

"There was an increase in criminal acts and corruption" in Havana, said the comptroller general Bejerano, who also serves as vice president of the State Council, according to a report published Tuesday in the official newspaper Granma.

Bejerano commented on the recent audit by the agency to 132 public entities in the capital. Only 73 were rated "acceptable," which represents "a step backwards ... when compared with the previous process," according to Granma.

The immediate consequence was the reinstatement of Morales.  That, in itself, was meant to send a very strong signal.  Now, at least among the most influential and senior Party members, public discussion of corruption, and public efforts to reduce its effects, may be more openly tolerated--tolerated at least to the extent that such activity remains "within the Revolution." Patricia Grogg has recently reported about Esteban Morales, a Cuban intellectual and Party member who had been disciplined for his outspoken criticism of corruption. Patricia Grogg, Intelectual comunista recupera su carné, Inter-Press Service in Cuba, July 14, 2011. The English version can be accessed as Patricia Grogg, Communist Academic Recovers His Party Card, Inter-Press Service, July 15, 2011. See, Larry Catá Backer, The Cuban Communist Party Signals on Corruption: Rehabilitating Esteban Morales,  Nuestras Voces Latinas, July 16, 2011.

"Morales does not rule out the possibility that the PCC National Conference, slated for April 2012, will include in its agenda an analysis of reports on corruption and the measures that have been taken to combat it. "I think war has been declared on this problem, which could generate a very tense, difficult internal situation," he commented." (Patricia Grogg, Communist Academic Recovers His Party Card, Inter-Press Service, July 15, 2011).

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